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Cross-disciplinary projects will create new knowledge on asthma, arrhythmia, kidney disease and the regulation of blood glucose

29 Jun
2018

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded a total of nearly DKK 60 million to four innovative and translational research projects.

Asthma is a very common childhood disease and the most frequent reason for admitting children to hospital. Nevertheless, more knowledge about the disease is needed. A new cross-disciplinary research collaboration will now shed more light on the its underlying mechanisms.

“This project aims to understand the genetic causes of childhood asthma and thereby lay the foundation for improving prevention and treatment,” says Klaus Bønnelykke, Chief Physician, Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC), Herlev and Gentofte Hospital, who is carrying out the project in collaboration with Anders Gorm Pedersen, basic researcher and bioinformatician, Department of Bio and Health Informatics at the Technical University of Denmark.

The project is one of four cross-disciplinary projects receiving a four-year grant of about DKK 15 million each from the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s Tandem Programme.

The Tandem Programme supports health science projects in which a clinical researcher and a basic researcher collaborate. The aim is to encourage cross-disciplinary knowledge sharing and collaboration across disciplines to bring research in laboratories and in clinics closer together to catalyse improved treatment and diagnosis of patients and the understanding of underlying disease mechanisms.

The three other projects receiving a grant have equally ambitious goals:

Thomas Jespersen, Professor, University of Copenhagen and Jakob Tfelt-Hansen, Professor and Chief Physician, Rigshospitalet, will create new knowledge on electrical disturbances in the heart and thereby strive to minimize the number of people dying as a result.

Robert Fenton, Professor, Aarhus University and Ewout Hoorn, Clinical Professor, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, Netherlands, will carry out research on chronic kidney disease, which is rapidly growing in prevalence.

Filip Knop, Professor and Chief Physician, Herlev and Gentofte Hospital and Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen and Jens Juel Holst, Professor, University of Copenhagen will create new knowledge on glucagon, a hormone secreted by the pancreas that plays a major role in regulating blood glucose.

Read more about the projects here:

Grant recipients:
Thomas Jespersen, Professor, University of Copenhagen and Jakob Tfelt-Hansen, Professor and Chief Physician, Rigshospitalet

Project title:
Sudden Arrhythmogenic Death Syndrome in the Young (SADS-Young)

Thomas Jespersen says: ”Sudden and unexpected death from electrical disturbances in the heart is one of the most common causes of death among Danes younger than 50 years. The people dying are often apparently healthy, and the reason is rarely discovered. Several unknown risk factors for these tragic deaths will be identified by combining nationwide health registries with autopsy results and genetic analysis and studies on biological model systems. This will contribute to extremely useful knowledge in clarifying which people – both close family members and in society as a whole – risk the same fate.”

Grant recipients:
Filip Knop, Professor and Chief Physician, Herlev and Gentofte Hospital and Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen and Jens Juel Holst, Professor, University of Copenhagen

Project title:
A New Understanding of Glucagon Physiology – the Liver-alpha Cell Axis

Filip Knop says: “Many people know the pancreatic hormone insulin and know that people with diabetes have elevated blood glucose levels resulting from insufficient secretion or effect of insulin, which is why insulin is used in treating diabetes. However, few know that people with diabetes also have elevated levels of glucogen, the other important hormone produced in the pancreas. Glucagon is crucial in mobilizing nutrients from the body’s reserves when there is extra demand, such as when blood glucose levels are low after fasting or physical activity. The inappropriately high levels of glucagon among people with diabetes therefore contribute to increasing blood glucose. We have discovered that, by metabolizing circulating amino acids, the liver plays a key role in the secretion of glucagon from the pancreas and that the fatty deposits in the livers of obese people may cause the high levels of glucagon and thereby strongly contribute to poor regulation of blood glucose. Our project aims to chart this new liver-pancreas axis and thereby obtain new understanding about how obesity and type 2 diabetes develop, enabling new treatment strategies.”

Grant recipients:
Robert Fenton, Professor, Aarhus University and Ewout Hoorn, Clinical Professor, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Project title:
Targeting Prostaglandins in Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Robert Fenton says: “High blood pressure and diabetes are reaching epidemic proportions and contribute to the onset of chronic kidney disease, a devastating disease that is a major global health burden. Most people do not show symptoms of chronic kidney disease until major kidney damage has occurred, and current therapies for treatment are not effective. This project will address the potential of a naturally occurring group of lipids, prostaglandins, as a new intervention for chronic kidney disease. Successful completion will greatly deepen understanding of the pathogenesis of the disease, leading to clinical application and ultimately preventing chronic kidney disease.”

Grant recipients:
Klaus Bønnelykke, Chief Physician, Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC), Herlev and Gentofte Hospital and Anders Gorm Pedersen, Professor, Technical University of Denmark.

Project title:
Genetic Mechanisms of Childhood Asthma

Klaus Bønnelykke says: ”Asthma is a very common childhood disease and the most frequent reason for hospitalizing children. This project aims to understand the genetic causes of childhood asthma and thereby lay the foundation for improving prevention and treatment. The project will combine detailed clinical and genetic data with the development of new statistical methods to understand the complex mechanisms that lead from genetic vulnerability to developing asthma, including the interaction between genetic and environmental factors.”

Further information

Christian Mostrup Scheel, Senior Press Officer, Novo Nordisk Foundation
phone: +45 3067 4805, cims@novo.dk

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